Mahomet

, or Mohammed, founder of the system of religious imposture called Mahometanism, was born in the year 569, at Mecca, a city of Arabia, of the tribe of the Korashites, which was reckoned the noblest in all that country; and was descended in a direct line from Pher Koraish, the founder of it. Yet in the beginning of his life he was in a very poor condition; for his father dying before he was two years old, and while his grandfather was still living, all the power and wealth of his family devolved to his uncles, especially Abu Taleb. Abu Taleb, after the death of his father, bore the chief sway in Mecca during the whole of a very long life; and it was under his protection chiefly, that Mahomet, when he first began topropagate his imposture, was sufficiently supported against all opposers, so as to be able, after his death, to establish it through all Arabia by his own power.

After his father’s death he continued under the tuition of his mother till the eighth year of his age; when she also dying, he was taken home to his grandfather, who at his death, which happened the year after, committed him to the care of his uncle Abu Taleb, to be educated by him. Abu Taleb, being a merchant, taught him his business, and, as soon as he was of sufficient age, sent him with his camels into Syria; in which employment he continued under his uncle till the 25th year of his age. One of the chief men of the city then dying, and his widow, whose name was Cadiga, wanting a factor to manage her stock? she invited Mahomet into her service. He accepted her | terms, traded three years for her at Damascus and other places, and acquitted himself in this charge so much to her satisfaction, that, about the twenty-eighth year of his age, she gave herself to him in marriage, although she was twelve years older. From being her servant he was now advanced to be master of both her person and fortune; and, finding himself equal in wealth to the best men of the city, he began to entertain ambitious thoughts of possessing the sovereignty over it.

Among the various means to effect this, none seemed to him more eligible than that imposture which he afterwards published with so much success, and so much mischief to the world. The extensive trade which he carried on in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, having made him well acquainted with both Christians and Jews, and given him an opportunity of observing with what eagerness they and the several sects into which the Christians of the Eastwerd then miserably divided, engaged against each other, he concluded that nothing would be more likely to gain a party firm to him for the attaining the ends at which he aimed, than the invention of a new religion. In this, however, he proceeded leisurely; for it was not till his thirty-eighth year that he began to prepare his design. He then withdrew himself from his former way of living, which is said to have been very licentious and wicked; and, affecting an hermit’s life, used every morning to retire into a solitary cave near Mecca, called the Cave of Hira; and there continued all day, exercising himself, as he pretended, in prayers, fastings, and holy meditations. Thus he went on for two years, during which time he gained over his wife Cadiga, who was his first proselyte, by pretending visions which he had seen, and voices which he had heard, in his retirement. It is to be observed, says Dr. Prideaux, that Mahomet began this imposture about the same time that the bishop of Rome, by virtue of a grant from the tyrant Phocas, first assumed the title of universal pastor. Phocas made this grant in the year 606, and Mahomet in the same year retired to his cave to contrive that deception which he began in the year 608 to propagate at Mecca.

In his fortieth year, Mahomet began to take upon him the style of the Apostle of God, and under that character to carry on the plan which he had now contrived; but for four years he confined his doctrines to such as he either | had most confidence in, or thought himself most likely to gain. When he had gained a few disciples, some of whom, however, were the principal men of the city, he began to publish it to the people at Mecca, in his forty-fourth year, and openly to declare himself a prophet sent by God, to convert them from the error of paganism, and to teach them the true religion. On his first appearance, he was treated with derision and contempt, and called by the people a sorcerer, magician, liar, impostor, and teller of fables, of which he frequently complains in the Koran; so that for the first year he made little or no progress. But persevering in his design, which he managed with great address, he afterwards gained so many proselytes, that in the fifth year of his pretended mission, he had increased his party to the number of thirty-nine, himself making the fortieth. People now began to be alarmed at the progress he made. Those who were addicted to the idolatry of their forefathers, stood up to oppose him as an enemy of their gods, and a dangerous innovator in their religion. Others, who saw further into his designs, thought it time to put a stop to them, for the sake of preserving the government, at which they thought he aimed: and therefore they combined together against him, and intended to have cut him off with the sword. But Abu Taleb, his uncle, defeated their design; and by his power, as being chief of the tribe, preserved him from many other attempts of the same nature; for though Abu Taleb himself persisted in the paganism of his ancestors, yet he had so much affection for the impostor, as being his kinsman, and one that was bred up in his house, and under his care, that he extended his full protection to Mahomet as long as he lived. The principal arguments, which Mahomet employed to delude men into a belief of this imposture, were promises and threats, both well calculated to influence the affections of the vulgar. His promises were chiefly of Paradise, which with great art he framed agreeably to the taste of the Arabians: for they, lying within the torrid zone, were, through the nature of their climate, as well as the corruption of their manners, exceedingly given to the love of women; and the scorching heat and dryness of the country, making rivers of water, cooling drinks, shaded gardens, and pleasant fruits, most refreshing and delightful unto them, they were from hence apt to place their highest enjoyment in things of this nature. For this | reason, he made the joys of his Paradise to consist totally in these particulars; which he promises them abundantly in many places of the Koran. On the contrary, he described the punishments of hell, which he threatened to all who would not believe in him, to consist of such torments as would appear to them the most afflicting and grievous to be borne; as, “that they should drink nothing but boiling and stinking water, nor breathe any thing but exceeding hot winds, things most terrible in Arabia; that they should dwell for ever in continual fire, excessively burning, and be surrounded with a black hot salt smoke, as with a coverlid, &c.” and, that he might omit nothing which could work on their fears, he terrified them with the threats of grievous punishments in this life. To which purpose he expatiated, upon all occasions, on the terrible calamities which had befallen such as would not be instructed by the prophets who, were sent before him; how the old world was destroyed by water, for not being reformed at the preaching of Noah; how Sodom was consumed by fire from heaven, for not hearkening to Lot when sent unto them; and how the Egyptians were plagued for despising Moses: for he allowed the divinity of both the Old and New Testament, and that Moses and Jesus Christ were prophets sent from God; but alledged that the Jews and Christians had corrupted those sacred books, and that he was sent to purge them from those corruptions, and to restore the law of Cod to that original purity in which it was first delivered. And this is the reason, that most of the passages which he takes out of the Old and New Testaments, appear different in the Koran from what we find them in those sacred books.

Mahomet pretended to receive all his revelations from the angel Gabriel, who, he said, was sent from God, on purpose to deliver them unto him. He was subject, it is said, to the falling-sickness, and whenever the fit was upon him, he pretended it to be a trance, and that then the angel Gabriel was come from God with some new revelations. These revelations he arranged in several chapters; which make up the Koran, the Bib!e of the Mahometans. The original of this book was laid up, as he taught his followers, in the archives of heaven; and the angel Gabriel brought him the copy of it, chapter by chapter, as occasion required that they should be published to the people; that is, as often as any new measure was to be pursued, | any objection against him or his religion to be answered, any difficulty to be solved, any discontent among his people to be quieted, any offence to be removed, or any thing else done for the furtherance of his grand scheme, his constant recourse was to the angel Gabriel for a new revelation; and then appeared some addition to the Koran, to serve his purpose. But what perplexed him most was, that his opposers demanded to see a miracle from him; “for,” said they, “Moses, and Jesus, and the rest of the prophets, according to thy own doctrine, worked miracles to prove their mission from God; and therefore, if thou be a prophet, and greater than any that were sent before thee, as thou boastest thyself to be, do thou work the like miracles to manifest it unto us.” This objection he endeavoured to evade by several answers; all oi which amount omy to this, “that God had sent Moses and Jesus with miracles, and yet men would not be obedient to their word; and therefore he had now sent him in the last place without miracles, to force them by the power of the sword to do his will.” Hence it has become the universal doctrine of the Mahometans, that their religion is to be propagated by the sword, and that all true mussulmen are bound to fight for it. It has even been said to be a custom among them for their preachers, while they deliver their sermons, to have a drawn sword placed by them, to denote, that the doctrines they teach are to be defended and propagated by the sword Some miracles, at the same time, Mahomet is said to have wrought; as, “That he clave the moon in two; that trees went forth to meet him, &c. &c.” but those who relate them are only such as are ranked among their fabulous and legendary writers: their learned doctors renounce them all; and when they are questioned, how without miracles they can prove his mission, their common answer is, that the Koran itself is the greatest of all miracles; for that Mahomet, who was an illiterate person, who could neither write nor read, or that any man else, by human wisdom alone, should be able to compose such a book, is, they think, impossible. On this Mahomet himself also frequently insists, challenging in several places of the Koran, both men and devils, by their united skill, to compose any thing equal to it, or to any part of it. From all which they conclude, and as they think, infallibly, that this book could come from none other but God himself; and that Mahomet, from whom they received it, was his messenger to bring it unto them. | That the Koran, as to style and language, is the standard of elegance in the Arabian tongue, and Uiat Mahomet was in truth what they aifirm him to have been, a rude and illiterate man, ate points agreed on all sides. A question therefore will arise among those who are not so sure that this book was brought by the angel Gabriel from heaven, by whose help it was compiled, and the imposture framed? There is the more reason to ask this, because this book itself contains so many particulars of the Jewish and Christian religions, as necessarily suppose the authors of it to have been well skilled in both; which Mahomet, who was bred an idolater, and lived so for the first forty years of his life, among a people totally illiterate, for such his tribe was by principle and profession, cannot be supposed to have been: but this is a question not so easily to be answered, because the nature of the thing required it to have been transacted very secretly. Besides this, the scene of this imposture being at least six hundred miles within the country of Arabia, amidst those barbarous nations, who all immediately embraced it, and would not permit any of another religion to live among them, it could not at that distance be so well investigated by those who were most concerned to discover the fraud. That Mahomet composed the Koran by the help of others, was a thing well known at Metca, when he first published his imposture there; and he was often reproached on that account by his opposers, as he himself more than once complains. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Koran, has words are “They say, that the Koran is nothing but a lie of thy own invention, and others have been assisting to thee herein.A passage in the sixteenth chapter also, particularly points at one of those who was then looked upon to have had a principal hand in this matter: “I know they will say, that a man hath taught him the Koran; but he whom they presume to have taught him is a Persian by nation, and speaketh the Persian language. But the Koran is in the Arabic tongue, full of instruction and eloquence.” The person here pointed at, was one Abdia Ben Salon, a Persian Jew, whose name he afterwards changed into Abdollah Ebn Salem, to make it correspond with the Arabic dialect; and almost all who have written of this imposture have mentioned him as the chief architect used by Mahomet in the framing of it: for he was an artful man, thoroughly skilled in all the learning of the Jews; and | therefore Mahomet seems to have received from him whatsoever of the rites and customs of the Jews he has ingrafted into his religion. Besides this Jew, the impostor derived some aid from a Christian monk: and the many particulars in the Koran, relating to the Christian religion, plainly prove him to have had such an helper. He was a monk of Syria, of the sect of the Nestorians. The name which he had in his monastery, and which he has since retained among the western writers, is Sergius, though Bahira was that which he afterwards assumed in Arabia, and by which he has ever since been mentioned in the East, by all that write or speak of him. Mahomet, as it is related, became acquainted with this Bahira, in one of his journeys into Syria, either at Bostra or at Jerusalem: and receiving great satisfaction from him in many of those points in which he had desired to be informed, contracted a particular friendship with him; so that Bahira being not long after excommunicated for some great crime, and expelled his monastery, fled to Mecca to him, was entertained in his house, and became his assistant in the framing of his imposture, and continued with him ever after; till Mahomet having, as it is reported, no farther occasion for him, to secure the secret, put him to death.

Many other particulars are recorded by some ancient writers, both as to the composition of the Koran, and also as to the manner of its first propagation; as, that the impostor taught a bull to bring it him on his horns in a public assembly, as if it had been this way sent to him from God; that he bred up pigeons to come to his ears, to make it appear as if the Holy Ghost conversed with him; stories which have no foundation at all in truth, although they have been credited by great and learned men. Grotius in particular, in that part of his book “De veritate, &c.” which contains a refutation of Mahometanism, relates the story of the pigeon; on which our celebrated orientalist Pococke, who undertook an Arabic version of that performance, asked Grotius, “Where he had picked up this story, whether among the Arabians, or the Christians?” To which Grotius replied, that “he had not indeed met with it in any Arabian author, but depended entirely upon the authority of the Christian writers for the truth of it.” Pococke thought fit, therefore, to omit it in his version, lest we should expose ourselves to the contempt of the Arabians, by not being able to distinguish the religion ofc | Mahomet from the tales and fictions which its enemies have invented concerning it; and by pretending to confute the Koran, without knowing the foundation on which its authority stands.

Jn the eighth year of his pretended mission, his party growing formidable at Mecca, the city passed a decree, by which they forbade any more to join themselves with him. This, however, did not much affect him, while his uncle Abu Taieb lived to protect him: but he dying two years after, and the government of the city then falling into the hands of his enemies, the opposition was renewed against him, and a stop soon put to the further progress of his designs at Mecca. Mahomet, therefore, seeing all his hopes crushed here, began to think of settling elsewhere; and as his uncle Abbas lived for the most part at Tayif, a town sixty miles distant from Mecca towards the East, and was a man of power and interest, he took a journey thither, under his protection, in order to propagate his imposture there. But, after a month’s stay, finding himself unable to gain even one proselyte, he returned to Mecca, with a resolution to wait for such further advantages as time and opportunity might offer. His wife Cadiga being now dead, after living with him twenty-two years, he took two other wives in her stead, Ayesha the daughter of Abubeker, and Lewda the daughter of Zama; adding a while after to them a third, named Haphsa the daughter of Omar; and by thus making himself son-in-law to three of the principal men of his party, he strengthened his interest considerably.

In the twelfth year of his pretended mission is placed the mesra, that is, his famous night-journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence to heaven; of which he tells us in the seventeenth chapter of the Koran; for the people calling on him for miracles to prove his mission, and finding himself unable to feign any, to solve the matter, he invented this story of his journey to heaven. The story, as related in the Koran, and believed by the Mahometans, is this. At night, as he lay in his bed with iris best beloved wife Ayesha, he heard a knocking at his door; upon which, arising, he found there the angel Gabriel, with seventy pair of wings expanded from his sides, whiter than snow, and clearer than crystal, and the beast Alborak standing by him; which, they say, is the beast on which the prophets used to ride when they were carried from one | place to another, upon the execution of any divine command. Mahomet describes it to be a beast as white as milk, and of a mixt nature, between an ass and a mule, and of a size between both, but of such extraordinary swiftness as to equal even lightning itself.

As soon as Mahomet appeared at the door, the angel Gabriel kindly embraced him, saluted him in the name of God, and told him that he was sent to bring him unto God into heaven; where he should see strange mysteries, which were not lawful to be seen by any other man. He prayed him then to get upon Alborak; but the beast having lain idle and unemployed from the time of Christ to Mahomet, was grown so mettlesome and skittish, that he would not stand still for Mahomet to mount him, till at length he was forced to bribe him to it, by promising him a place in Paradise. When he was firmly seated on him, the angel Gabriel led the way, with the bridle of the beast in his hand, and carried the prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem, in the twinkling of an eye. On his coming thither, all the departed prophets and saints appeared at the gate of the temple, to salute him; and thence, attending him into the chief oratory, desired him to pray for them, and then withdrew. After this, Mahomet went out of the temple with the angel Gabriel, and found a ladder of light ready fixed for them, which they immediately ascended, leaving Alborak tied to a rock till their return.

On their arrival at the first heaven, the angel knocked at the gate; and informing the porter who he was, and that he had brought Mahomet the friend of God, he was immediately admitted. This first heaven, he tells us, was all of pure silver; from whence he saw the stars hanging from it by chains of gold, each as big as mount Noho, near Mecca, in Arabia. On his entrance, he met a decrepid old man, who, it seems, was our first father, Adam; and as he advanced, he saw a multitude of angels in all manner of shapes; in the shape of birds, beasts, and men. We must not forget to observe, that Adam had the piety immediately to embrace the prophet, giving God thanks for so great a son; and then recommended himself to his prayers. From this first heaven, the impostor tells us, he ascended into the second, which was at the distance of five hundred years journey above it; and this he makes to be the distance of every one of the seven heavens, each above the other. Here the gates being opened to him as before, | at his entrance he met Noah, who, rejoicing much at the sight of him, recommended himself to his prayers. This heaven was all of pure gold, and there were twice as many angels in it as in the former; for he tells us that' the number of angels in every heaven increased as he advanced. From this second heaven he ascended into the third, which was made of precious stones, where he met Abraham, who also recommended himself to his prayers; Joseph the son of Jacob, did the same in the fourth heaven, which was all of emerald; Moses in the fifth, which was all of adamant; and John the Baptist in the sixth, which was all of carbuncle: xvhence he ascended into the seventh, which was all of divine light, and here he found Jesus Christ. However, it is observed, that here he alters his style; for he does not say that Jesus Christ recommended himself to his prayers, but that he recommended himself to the prayers of Jesus Christ.

The angel Gabriel having brought him thus far, told him that he was not permitted to attend him any further; and therefore directed him to ascend the rest of the way to the throne of God by himself. This he performed with great difficulty, passing through rough and dangerous places, till he came where he heard a voice, saying unto him, “O Mahornet, salute thy Creator;” whence, ascending higher, he came into a place where he saw a vast expansion of light, so exceedingly bright, that his eyes could not bear it. This, it seems, was the habitation of the Almighty, where his throne was placed; on the right side of which, he says, God’s name and his own were written in these Arabic words: “La ellah ellallah Mohammed resul ollah;” that is, “There is no God but God, and Mahomer is his prophet,” which is at this day the creed of the Mahometans. Being approached to the divine presence, he teils us that God entered into a familiar converse with him, revealed to him many hidden mysteries, made him understand the whole of his law, gave him many things in charge concerning his instructing men in the knowledge of it; and in conclusion, bestowed on him several privileges above the rest of mankind. He then returned, and found the angel Gabriel waiting for him in the place where he left him. The angel led him back along the seven heavens, through which he had brought him, and set him again upon the beast Alborak, which stood tied at the rock near Jerusalem. Then he conducted him back to Mecca, | in the same manner as he brought him thence; and all this within the space of the tenth part of one night.

On his relating this extravagant fiction to the people the next morning after he pretended the thing to have happened, it was received by them, as it deserved, with a general outcry; and the imposture was never in greater danger of being totally blasted, than by this ridiculous fable. But, how ridiculous soever the story may appear, Mahomet had a further design in it than barely telling such a miraculous adventure of himself to the people. Hitherto he had only given them the Koran, which was his written law; and had pretended to be nothing more than barely the messenger of God in publishing it, as it was delivered to him by the angel Gabriel. But now, learning from his friend Abdalla, that the Jews, besides the written law dictated by God himself, had also another law, called the oral law, given with it, as they pretend, to Moses himself while in the mount; and understanding that this law, which had its whole foundation in the sayings and dictates of Moses, was in as great veneration with them as the other; he had a mind for the future to advance his authority to the same pitch, and to make all his sayings and dictates pass for oracles among the mussulmen, as those which were pretended to proceed from Moses did among the Jews; and for this end chiefly it was, that he invented this story of his journey to heaven.

The story, however, whatever advantages he might gain by it when the imposture became more firmly established, was deemed at present so grossly ridiculous, that it occasioned the revolt of many of his disciples, and made his stay at Mecca no longer practicable. But what he lost at Mecca he gained at Medina, then called Yathreb, a city lying 270 miles north-west from Mecca; which was inhabited, the one part by Jews, and the other by heretical Christians. These two parties not agreeing, feuds and factions rose at length so high among them, that one party, exasperated against the other, went over to Mahomet. Thus we are told, that in the thirteenth year of his pretended mission, there came to him from thence seventy-three men and two women. Twelve of these he retained awhile with him at, Mecca, to instruct them in his new religion; then sent, them buck to Yathreb, as his twelve apostles, to propagate it in that town. In this they laboured abundantly, and with such success, that in a short time they drew over the | greatest part of the inhabitants; of which Mahomet receiving an account, resolved to go thither immediately, finding it unsafe to continue any longer at Mecca.

On the 12th day of the month, which the Arabs call the Former Rabia, that is, on the 24th of our September, he came to Yathreb, and was received with great acclamations by the party which called him thither. This party is supposed to have been the Christians, and this supposition is confirmed by what he says of each of them in the fifth chapter of the Koran, which is one of the first he published after his coming to Yathreb. His words are these: “Thou shalt find the Jews to be very great enemies to the true believers, and the Christians to have great inclination and amity towards them.” By which we may see into what a deplorable decay the many divisions and distractions which then reigned in the eastern church had brought the Christian religion, when its professors could so easily desert it for that gross imposture which an illiterate barbarian proposed to them. On his first coming to Yathreb, he lodged in the house of Chalid Abu Job, one of the chief men of the party that called him thither, till he had built a house for himself. This he immediately undertook, and erected a mosque at the same time, for the exercise of his new-invented religion; and having thus settled himself in, this town, he continued there to the time of his death. From this flight of Mahomet, the Hegira, which is the sera of the Mahometans, begins its computation: Hegira, in. the Arabic language, signifying flight. It was first appointed by Omar, the third emperor of the Saracens, and takes its beginning from the 16th of July, in the year 622. Indeed the day that Mahomet left Mecca was on the first of the Former Rabia; and he came to Medina on the 12th of the same month, that is on the 24th of our September; but the Hegira begins two months before, from the first of Moharram: for, that being the first month of the Arabian year, Omar would make no alteration as to that, but anticipated the computation fifty-niue days, that he might commence his sera from the beginning of that year, in which the flight of the impostor happened, from which it topk its name.

The first thing that Mahomet did after he had settled himself at Medina, was to marry his daughter Fatima* to his cousin Ali. She was the only child then living of six which were born to him of Cadiga his first wife; and | indeed the only one which he had, notwithstanding the mcltifnde of his wives who survived him. Having now obtained the end at which he had long been aiming, that is, that of having a town at his command, he entered upon a scheme entirely new. Hitherto he had been only preaching his religion for thirteen years together; for the remaining ten years of his life he took the sword, and fought for it. He had long been teazed and perplexed at Mecca with questions, and objectiows, and disputes about what he had preached, by which he/v as often put to silence-; but iKjnceforth he forbad all manner of disputing, telling his disciples that his religion was to be propagated not by disputing, but by fighting. He commanded them therefore to arm themselves, and slay with the sword all that. would not embrace it, unless they submitted to pay a yearly tribute for the redemption of their lives: and according to this injunction, even to this day, all who live under any Mahometan government, and are not of their religion, pay an annual tax for a mulct of their infidelity; and are punished with death if they contradict or oppose any doctrine taught by Mahomet. After he had sufficiently infused this doctrine into his disciples, he next proceeded to put it in practice; and having erected his standard, called them all to come armed to it. His first expeditious were against the trading caravans, in their journeys between Mecca and Syria, which he attacked with various success; and-if we except the establishing and adjusting a few particulars relating to his grand scheme, as occasion required, his time, for the two first years after his flight, was wholly spent in predatory excursions upon his neighbours, in robbing, plundering, and destroying all those that lived near Medina, who would not embrace his religion.

In the third year of the Hegira, A. D. 624, he made war upon those tribes of the Arabs which were of the Jewish religion near him; and having taken their castles, and reduced them under his power, he sold them all for slaves, and divided their goods among his followers. But the battle of Ohud, which happened towards the end of this year, had like to have proved fatal to him; for his uncle Hamza, who bore the standard, was killed, himself grievously wounded, and escaped only by one of his companions comincr to his assistance. This defeat gave rise to many objections against him, some asked, How a prophet of God could be overthrown in a battle by the infidels | and others murmured as much for the loss of their friends and relations who were slain. To satisfy the former, he Jakt the cause of the overthrow on the sins of some that followed him; and said, that for this reason God suffered them to he overthrown, that so the good might be distinguished from the bad, and that those who were true believers might on this occasion be discerned from those who were not. Tq quiet the complaints of the latter, he invented his doctrine of fate and predestination; telling them that those who were slain in the battle, though they had tarried at home in their houses, must nevertheless have died at that moment, the time of every man’s life being predetermined by God; but-as they died fighting for the faith, they gained the advantage of the crown of martyrdon), and the rewards which were due to it in Paradise; both which doctrines served his purpose so well, that he proj>a-jated them afterwards on all occasions. They have also been the favourite notions of the Mahometans ever since, and enforced especially in their wars; where, it musk be owned, nothing can be more conducive to make them fight valiantly, than a settled opinion, that to whatever^ dangers they expose themselves, they cannot die either sooner or later than is predestinated by God; and that, in case this predestined time be come, they shall, by dying martyrs for their religion, immediately enter into Paradise as the reward of it.

In the fourth year of the Hegira, A. D. 625, he waged war with the Nadirites, a tribe of the Jewish Arabs in the neighbourhood; and the same year fought the battle of Beder, and had many other skirmishes with those who refused to submit: in all which he had sometimes prosperous and sometimes dubious success. But while his army was abroad on these expeditions, some of his principal men engaging in play and drinking, quarrelled, and raised such a disturbance among the rest, that they had like to have endangered his whole scheme; and, therefore, to prevent any mischief cf this kind for the future, he forbade the use of wine, and all games of chance. In the fifth and sixth years, he was engaged in various wars, and subdued, several tribes of the Arabs. After so many advantages obtained, being much increased in strength, he marched his army against Mecca, and fought a battle near it the consequence of which was, that, neither side gaining any victory, they agreed on a truce for ten years. The conditions | of it were, that all within Mecca, who were for Mahomet, might have liberty to join themselves to him; and on the other side, those with Mahomet, who had a mind to leave him, might have the liberty to return to Mecca. By this truce, Mahomet, being very much confirmed in his power, took on him thenceforth the authority of a king, and was inaugurated as such by the chief men of his army.

Having thus made a truce with the men of Mecca, and thereby obtained free access for any of his party to go into that city, he ordained them to make pilgrimages thither, which have ever since been observed, with much superstition, by all his followers, once every year: and now being thus established in the sovereignty, at which he had long been aiming, he assumed all the insignia belonging to it; still retaining the sacred character of chief pontiff of his religion, as well as the royal, with which he was invested. He transmitted both to his successors, who, by the title of Caliphs, reigned after him: so that, like the Jewish princes of the race of Maccabees, they were kings and chief-priests of their people at the same time. Their pontifical authority consisted chiefly in giving the interpretation of the Mahometan law, in ordering all matters of religion, and in praying and preaching in their public mosques: and this at length was all the authority the caliphs had left; as they were totally stripped of the rest, first by the governors. of the provinces, who, about the 325th year of the Hegira, assumed the regal authority to themselves, and afterwards by others, who gradually usurped upon them; till at length, after a succession of ages, the Tartars came in, and, in that deluge of destruction with which they over-ran all the East, put a total end not only to their authority, but to their very name and being. Ever since that time, most Mahometan princes have a particular officer appointed in their respective dominions, who sustains this sacred authority, formerly invested in their caliphs; who in Turkey is called the Mufti, and in Persia the Sadre. But they, being under the power of the princes that appoint them, are in reality the mere creatures of state, who make the law of Mahomet speak just such language as is necessary to support the measures of the government, however unjust or tyrannical.

In the seventh year of the Hegira, A. D. 628, the impostor led forth his army against Caibar, a city inhabited by Arabs of the Jewish religion and, after routing them | irt battle, he besieged their city, and took it by storm. Having entered the town, he took up his quarters in the house of Hareth, one of the principal inhabitants of the place, whose daughter Zainoh, preparing a shoulder of mutton for his supper, poisoned it. Here those who would ascribe miracles to Mahomet, tell us, that the shoulder of mutton spake to him, and discovered that it was poisoned; but, if it did so, it was, it seems, too late to do him any good; for Basher, one of his companions, beginning too greedily to eat of it, fell down dead on the place; and although Mahomet had not immediately the same fate, because, not liking the taste, he spit out again what he had taken into his mouth, yet he took enough to have a fatal effect; for he never recovered, and, at the end of three years, died of this meal. The maid being asked why she did this, answered, that “she had a mind to make trial, whether he were a prophet or not: for, were he a prophet,” said she, “he would certainly know that the meat was poisoned, and therefore would receive no harm from it; but, if he were not a prophet, she thought she should do the world good service in ridding it of so wicked a tyrant.

After this, he reduced under his subjection other towns belonging to the Jewish Arabs, and having increased his strength by these acquisitions to an army of 10,000 men, he resolved to make himself master of Mecca. For this plurpose, pretending that the people of Mecca had broken the truce, he marched suddenly upon them, before they were aware of his design: when, being utterly incapable of putting themselves into any posture of defence against him, they found themselves necessitated to surrender immediately. As soon as it was heard among the neighbouring Arabs, that Mahomet had made himself master of Mecca, several other tribes made head against him, and in the first encounter routed his army, though greatly superior to theirs in number: but the impostor, having gathered up his scattered forces, and rallied them again into a body, acted more cautiously in the second conflict, and gave his enemies a total defeat, and took from them their baggage, with their wives and children, and all their substance. After this, his power being much increased, the fame of it so terrified the rest of the Arabs, who had not yet felt his arms, that they all submitted to him. So that in this year, which is the tenth of the Hegira, and the | 631st of our Lord, his empire and his religion became established together through all Arabia.

He spent the remainder of the year in sending lieutenants into all his provinces, to govern in his name, to destroy the heathen temples, and all the other remains of the Arabian idolatry, and establish his religion in its stead. Towards the end of it, he took a journey in pilgrimage to Mecca, where a great concourse of people resorted to him from all parts of Arabia, whom he instructed in his law, and then returned to Medina. This pilgrimage is called, by his followers, the pilgrimage of valediction, because it was the last he made: for, after his return to Medina, Jhe began daily ta decline, through the force of that poison which he had taken three years before at Caibar. It had never been removed from his constitution, and at length brought him so low, that he was forced, on the 28th day of Saphar, the second month of their year, to take to his bed; and, on, the 12th day of the following month, he died, after a sickness of thirteen days. During his sickness he much complained of the mea.t which he had taken at Caibar; telling those who came to visit hirp, that he had felt the torments of it in his body ever since: so that, notwithstanding the intimacy he pretended with the angel Gabriel, and the continual revelations he received from him, he could not be preserved from perishing by the snares of a girl.

He was buried in the place where he died, which was in the chamber of his best-beloved wife, at Medina. The story that Mahomet’s tomb, being of iron, is suspended in the air, under a vault of loadstones, is a mere fable; and the Mahometans laugh, when they know that the Christians relate it, as they do other stories of him, for a certain matter of fact. A king of Egypt, indeed, formerly attempted to do this, when he had a mind to procure the same advantage to a statue of his wife. “Dinocrates the architect,” says Pliny, “had begun to roof the temple of Arsinoe, at Alexandria, with loadstone, that her image, made of iron, might seem to hang there in the air.” But no such Attempt was ever made in regard to Mahomet; whose body continued in the place where he was buried, without having been moved or disturbed. They have, it is said, built over it a small chapel, joining to one of the corners of the chief mosque of that city; the first mosque which was erected to that impious | superstition, Mahomet himself being, as hath been related above, the founder of it.

Thus ended the life of this famous impostor, who was sixty-three years old on the day he died, according to the Arabian calculation, which makes only sixty-one of our years. For twenty-three years he had taken upon him to be a prophet of which he lived thirteen at Mecca, and ten at Medina, during which time, by his great address and management, he rose from the meanest beginnings to such a height of power as to be able to make one of the greatest revolutions that ever happened in the world. This revolution immediately gave birth to an empire, which, in eighty years, extended its dominion over more kingdoms and countries than the Roman empire could subdue m eight hundred: and, although it continued in its flourishing condition not much above three hundred years, yet out of its ashes have sprung up many other kingdoms and empires, of which there are three at this day, the largest, if not the most potent upon the face of the earth; namely, the empire of Turkey, the empire of Persia, and the empire of the Mogul in India. Mahomet was a man of a good stature and a comely aspect, and affected much to be thought like Abraham. He had a piercing and sagacious wit, and was extremely well versed in all those arts which are necessary to lead mankind. In the first part of his life, he was wicked and licentious, much delighted in rapine, plunder, and bloodshed, according to the usage olf the Arabs, who have generally followed this kind of life. The Mahometans, however, would persuade us, that he was a saint from the fourth year of his age: for then, they say, the angel Gabriel separated him from his fellows, while he was at play with them; and, carrying him aside, cut open his breast, took out his heart, and wrung out of it that black dropof blood, in which they imagined was contained thefomes peccati; so that he had none of it ever after. This is contradicted, however, by two predominant passions, ambition and lust. The course which he took to gain empire abundantly shews the former; and the multitude of women with whom he was connected, proves the latter. While Cadiga lived, which was till his fiftieth year, it does not appear that he had any other wife: for, she being the origin and foundation of all his fortunes and grandeur, it is probable he durst not displease her, by bringing in another wife. But she was no sooner dead, than he multiplied them to a great | number, besides which he had several concubines. They that reckon the fewest, allow him to have married fifteen; but others reckon them to have been one and twenty, of which five died before him, six he divorced, and ten were alive at his death.

But of all his wives, Ayesha, the daughter of that Abubeker who succeeded him, was by far his best beloved. He married her very young, and took care to have her bred up in all the learning of Arabia, especially in the elegance of their language, and the knowledge of their antiquities; so that she became at length one of the most accomplished ladies of her time. She was a bitter enemy to Ali, he being the person who discovered her incontinence to Mahomet, and therefore employed all her interest, upon every vacancy, to hinder him from being chosen Caliph, althougn, as son-in-law to the impostor, he had the fairest pretence to it; and when at last, after having been thrice put by, he attained that dignity, she appeared in arms against him; and although she did not prevail, caused such a defection from him, as ended in his ruin. She lived forty. eight years after the death of Mahomet, and was in great reputation with her sect, being called by them the Prophetess, and the mother of the faithful. One of the principal arguments which the followers of Mahomet used, to excuse his having so many wives, is, that he might beget young prophets: he left, however, neither prophet nor prophetess long behind him of all his wives. The six children which he had by Cadiga, his first wife, all died before him, except Fatima, the wife of Ali, who only survived him sixty days; and be had no child by any of the rest.

As the impostor allowed the divinity of the Old and New Testament, it is natural to suppose that he would attempt to prove his own mission from both; and the texts used for this purpose by those who defend his cause, are these following. In Deuteronomy it is said, “The Lord came down from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from mount Pharan^ and he came with ten thousand of saints: from his right-hand went a fiery law for them.” By these words, according to the Mahometans, are meant the delivery of the law to Mosea, on mount Sinai; of the gospel to Jesus, at Jerusalem; and of the Koran to Mahomet, at Mecca: for, say they, Seir are the mountains of Jerusalem, where Jesus appeared; and Pha-. | ran the mountains of Mecca, where Mahomet appeared. But they are here mistaken in their geography; for Pharan is a city of Arabia Petraea, near the Red Sea, towards the bottom of the gulph, not far from the confines of Egypt and Palestine, and above 500 miles distant from Mecca. It was formerly an episcopal see, under the patriarchs of Jerusalem, and famous for Theodorus, once bishop of it, who was the first that published to the world the opinion of the Monothelites. It is at this day called Fara: and hence the deserts, lying from this city to the borders of Palestine, are called the deserts or wilderness of Pharan, and the mountains lying in it, the mountains of Pharan, in holy scripture; near which Moses first began to repeat, and more clearly to explain the law to the children of Israel, before his death: and it is to that, to which the text above mentioned refers.

The Psalmist has written, “Out of Sion, the perfec-­tion of beauty, God hath shined;” which the Syriac version reads thus, “Out of Sion God hath shewed a glorious crown.” From this some Arabic translation having expressed the two last words by “eclilan mahmudan,” that is, “an honourable crown,” the Mahometans have understood the name Mahomet; and so read the word thus, “Out of Sion hath God shewed the crown of Mahomet.” In Isaiah we read, “And he saw a chariot, with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses and a chariot of camels.” But the old Latin version hath it, “Et vidit currum duorum equitum, ascensorera asini, & ascensorem cameli” that is, “And he saw a chariot of two horsemen, a rider upon an ass, and a rider upon a camel.” Here, by the rider upon an ass, they understand Jesus Christ, because he so rode to Jerusalem; and by the rider upon a camel Mahomet, because he was of the Arabians, who used to ride upon camels. Our Saviour, in St. John, tells his disciples, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” By the Comforter, the Mahometans will have their prophet Mahomet to be meant: and therefore, among other titles, they gave him that of Paraclet, which is the Greek word used in this text for the Comforter, made Arabic. They also say, that the very name of Mahomet, both here and in other places of the gospel, was expressly mentioned; but that the Christians have, through malice, blotted it out, and shamefully corrupted those holy writings; nay, they | insist, that at Paris there is a copy of the Gospels without those corruptions, in which the coming of Mahomet is foretold in several places, with his name expressly mentioned in them: Such a copy, it must be owned, would be highly convenient, and to the purpose: for ttien it would be no easy matter to refute this text in the 61st chapter of the Koran: “Remember, that Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the children of Israel, I am the messenger of God: he bath sent me to confirm the Old Testament, and to declare unto yon, that there shall come a prophet after me, whose name *hall be Mahomet.

It is not our business to confute these glosses; and if it was, the absurdity of them is sufficiently exposed by barely relating them. Upon the whole, since the Mahometans can find nothing else in all the books of the Old and New Testament to wrest to their purpose, but the texts abovementioned, it appears to us, that their religion, as well as its founder, is likely to receive but little sanction from the Bible.

Mahomet was succeeded by Abubeker, agreeably to the wishes of the deceased prophet; who, after a reign of two years, was followed by Omar; and in the twelfth year of his government he received a mortal wound from the hand of an assassin, and made way for the succession of Othman, the secretary of Mahomet After the third caliph, twenty-four years after the death of the prophet, Ali was invested, by the popular choice, with the regal and sacerdotal office. Among the numerous biographers of Mahomet, we may reckon Abulfeda, Maracci, Savary, Sale, Prideaux, Boulainvilliers, D’Herbelot, Gagnier, Gibbon, and the author of the article in the Modern Universal History. 1

1

Prideaux has been chiefly followed in the preceding account.